Workshop 3

Socio-anthropological approach of local knowledge in agroecology


Dr. Hélène Guétat-Bernard, Sociologist (IFP, CNRS-MAE)

Trainer :

Dr. Daniele Clavel, CIRAD, UMR AGAP, plants genetics.

Dr. Matthieu Salpeteur, IRD, PALOC, anthropologist.

Salome Yesudas, National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Center for Agrarian Studies, Hyderabad


Indhubala Khesavan, JNU master student (PhD project), assistant and trainer

Serlibon Timungpi, North East Network and Green hub

Argument Purpose

In a global context of crisis of the conventional food production and processing model, agroecology questions the contemporary heritage of peasant knowledge regarding the conservation of object of nature (local seeds and breeds) and techniques to maintain soil fertility (including micro hydrology). These seeds, breeds and techniques are the result of socio economic history based on specific cultural context and ecosystem. These have been marginalised by colonial and postcolonial development programmes such as recently by the Green Revolution. Agro-ecology is based on a dialogue between local and scientific knowledge. Each of these knowledge questions the history of their elaboration, inscribed in a context of inter-sectionality and gendered power relations that value certain propositions and render others invisible. The workshop will question the socio-environmental heritage of agroecology and its gender dimensions with an interdisciplinary approach of social sciences and genetics of plants.

Women play a major role in this conservation. There is an inherent gender bias in state policies and agencies and its approach for market oriented agriculture. Although, women role in agriculture (their farming practices, culinary culture and care, whose purpose is to ensure the maintenance of the life of the community in their territory) is increasingly acknowledged. Genetics and epigenetics for adaptation play also a vital resilience role: plants knowledge and the way it was built must be unveiled because it holds the responses of societies to the current global crisis. India is also rich of highly diverse pastoral systems. Being a key component of local agricultural systems and agroecology, these contribute in a significant way to the livelihoods of rural people. Indian pastoralists are considered as the “guardians” of livestock diversity, as they have created, through centuries of selection, a number of local breeds that they maintain in diverse ecosystems and that are well adapted to local ecological and climatic conditions. In the same time, cross-breeding supported by dairy development plans tend to erode the genetic diversity.

The workshop focuses on 3 dimensions: a) conceptual contributions on the feminist and decolonial approach of agroecology as part of a political ecology discussion from India, Africa to South America; b) the heritage of biodiversity (from seeds to breeds) and it’s gender understanding at different scales (from the commons, the farm fields and to the plate); c) biodiversity and collective identity as a major debate of peasant movements for agroecology.

The workshop, based on grounded theory and shared experiences between scientists and grassroots organizations will be articulated around four focii: a) conceptual contributions on the feminist and decolonial approach of agroecology which questions the “sociology of absences”; b) understanding through a systemic concern what is meant by preserving the heritage of biodiversity; c) links between biodiversity and identity (from individual ontology to collective level) and what methodological tools and strategies can be used to understand and preserve these “living archives” (seeds, breeds, recipes); d) a discussion around participatory methods (especially how they are used to enriching nutrition program by strengthening local food systems).

The visit of a farm is part of the methodology to show: i) the articulation between preservation of the local seeds and breeds for efficient economic management (productivity, adaptation to climate change) at the scale of the plot of land, the farm and the communities; ii) the importance of seeds and breeds as an heritage for the family, the village, the communities and what are the form of exchanges; iii) what are the interactions between plants and recipes in tamil food culture. Students, as a participatory methodology, will collect plants and will cook to experiment the food processing in the family house kitchen.

Main Objectives of the workshop: to make known and understood feminist approaches of agroecology and (feminist) political ecology; to understand the meaning and significance of an engaged research, and the dialogue between researchers and activists; to help the students to take into account gender issues in their thesis.



Gutgutia S., Chowdhary K. and Patil R., 2017, “Forest Conservation and Management in Pachgaon”, Environment and Ecology, June 20,

FAO. 2012. Invisible Guardians – Women manage livestock diversity. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper No. 174. Rome, Italy.

Krätli, Saverio, Christian Huelsebusch, Sally Brooks, and Brigitte Kaufmann. 2013. “Pastoralism: A Critical Asset for Food Security under Global Climate Change.” Animal Frontiers 3(1): 42–50.

Krishna, Sumi (ed.). Genderscapes: Revisioning Natural Resource Management. New Delhi: Zubaan. 2009.

Krishna, Sumi. “Gendered Price of Rice in North-Eastern India”, Economic and Political Weekly. Vol. 40, Issue 25, pp. 2555-2562. 2005.

Rao, Nitya. “Gender Equality, Land Rights and Household Food Security: Discussion of Rice Farming Systems”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40, No. 25. pp. 2513-2521. 2005.

Ravera F., Reyes-Garcia V., Pascual U., Drucker A.G, Tarrason D., Bellon M.R, 2019, “Gendered agrobioversity management and adaptation to climate change : differentiated strategies in two marginal rural areas of India”, Agriculture and human values, 36: 455-574.

Sagari R Ramdas and S Ashalatha, 2016, Good Practice Code SAGP25; South Asia, India, Andhra Pradesh Good Practice Note, A joint initiative of NDDB and FAO, Unpacking the ‘Poor Productivity’ Myth: Women Resurrecting Poultry Based Livelihoods in India”

Workshop 3 Schedule

9:00-9:30 Opening speech

Introduction and objectives of the workshop

Presentation of trainers and participants

9:30-11:00 Heritage and agroecology through a Gender approach. Objectives of the training session.

Hélène Guétat    

11:00-11:15 Coffee/Tea break
11:15-12:30 PHD research presentation and dialogue on students expectation
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 The seed question and the rise of “thing-politic” in Tamilnadu

Indhubala Khesavan

15:30-16:00 Coffee/Tea break
16:00-17:30 Biodiversity politics for agroecology: strengthening the foundation knowledge for future in global South

Danièle Clavel

9:00-10:30  Local breeds in a globalized world: pastoral dynamics and livelihoods in rural India

Matthieu Salpeteur

10:30-11.00 Coffee/Tea break
11.00-12:30 Participatory methods for enriching nutrition by strengthening local food systems

Salome Yesudas

12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-17:30 Group work
9:00-12:30 Krishna organic farm visit and food processing (tamoul recipes) Mithra, PS Pallavam village
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-18:00 Group work
9:00-12:30 Group work
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 Group work
15:30-15:45 Coffee/Tea break
15:45-18:00 Group work restitution of project

Discussion of the results and the workshops


Methodological approaches in social sciences